Title defense: Cowboys not thinking about state championships just yet

She's at it again.

In the first 15 seconds of Camp Verde's girls soccer scrimmage on Saturday, Chantel Reimer scored a goal.

The junior, who has tallied more than 50 goals in her high school career, took the opening kickoff against Snowflake, dished to Angel Allen, who then one-touched the ball back to her. Boom — with one swift boot the Cowboys put their opponent in a 1-0 hole.

"I was still writing the line-up in the score book," said Camp Verde coach Loretta Grondin. "It was a beautiful ball."

The quick strike is good news to Cowboy fans eager to see what the defending state 1A-3A champions can do for an encore this fall. It's more troublesome news to those who have designs on overtaking them.

Camp Verde returns 14 members from its state title team, including Reimer, who earned first-team all-state status. They bid farewell to three pivotal players who have graduated – Amber Beeler, Jolene Reimer and Amy McElhaney – but have a host of talented sophomores and juniors ready to fill the voids.

Allen is only a freshman, as is Kim Van Hook, who scored once in Saturday's 5-0 exhibition win at Snowflake.

But don't start talking titles with Grondin just yet. She and assistant Mike Reamer have chosen to take a low-key approach to the 2001 season, focusing, as coaches like to say, on one game at a time.

"We're trying hard not to use words like state and repeat," Grondin said. "That's a long ways off."

Reimer will obviously draw a lot of attention each outing, but she'll be blessed with a strong supporting cast around her. Nikki Finch, who scored in the state championship game, returns as a striker. Sophomores Sarah Hilton and Alicia Wagner will join Van Hook and Allen as front-line weapons.

Grondin called Allen an "intense" presence. She can shoot and pass with precision. "She's very good at placing the ball," the coach said.

Michelle Toogood will pace the midfield. The junior, a tenacious defensive-minded player, sat out several games last season because of a knee injury but has returned in good form this year, Grondin said.

Seniors Katelyn Baker and Autumn Beeler and sophomore Tiffani Mathews will join Toogood in the middle of the line-up.

Senior Lauren Clawson and junior Colleen McCabe headline a strong defensive unit. Sophomores Hannah Stanfield and Megan Reddell return with a year of varsity experience under their belts. Kasey Dugan, a member of the team in 1999, returns after a year of living in Colorado.

Tasha Williams, a sophomore, will tend the net, at least during the early part of the season. Last year's starter Tabitha Williams is healing from a car wreck and could be out several weeks.

Clawson will be Williams' back-up and can also sub at offense when needed. Clawson scored twice against Snowflake on Saturday, both of her shots finding the net from about 30 yards out.

Briane Phelps will be the team's manager. The sophomore worked with the team all summer and came out for preseason drills, but has been sidelined from play because of a knee injury.

Grondin praised Phelps' heart and effort — she rarely missed a workout this summer and was actually running with the team a few weeks ago when her mom delivered the doctor's report on her bad knee. Her dedication is infectious.

"To put that much into it, that's love of the sport," Grondin said.

The Camp Verde coach used Saturday's scrimmage at Snowflake as a chance to try different line-ups and give her younger players experience against an outside opponent. Reimer only played about 15 minutes before resting. Mathews netted the team's other goal.

"It was really fun to see them play again," Grondin said.

The Cowboys kick off their season Thursday afternoon at home against River Valley. Camp Verde had little trouble with the Dust Devils a year ago, winning 8-2 and 10-1, so this match-up could be another chance to let everyone play.

St. Gregory visits on Saturday, and the Cowboys will prepare for the Show Low Tournament on Sept. 7-8. The tourney schedule isn't set yet, but Camp Verde could run into the team it beat for last year's state championship, the host Cougars.

"We're ready to play," Grondin said.

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